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PIGS CHEEKS BRAISED IN WHITE WINE WITH WILD MUSHROOMS – CARILLADA DE CERDO GUISADO CON ROVELLONES

Keith Floyd was the inspiration behind this recipe. I was watching afternoon TV while catching up on a huge pile of ironing, and there was Keith from at least twenty-five years ago, in Burgundy making  Boeuf Bourgignon, a, dish for which he was insisting the best cut of beef to use is cheek.

This got me thinking about the pigs cheek that is so popular here, and which I had eaten several times in restaurants and enjoyed immensely, but never cooked with myself. A group of friends were coming to lunch, and I was thinking about what to cook for the main course. With a large group, a casserole is always a good idea as it is better cooked the day before.

Instead of beef and red wine, how about pork and white wine? Being autumn there are rich wild mushrooms, Rovellones, in the shops which would add musky richness to the dish.

The cheeks I bought were on the bone, and as soon as I started to trim the flesh away from the bone, I could see why this cut is considered so highly. The meat is finely streaked throughout with fat, which would make it moist and succulent.

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Prepare the casserole at least one day in advance.

These amounts are for the nine people I fed on the day –

For the stock-

The bones from the cheeks or if you buy the cheeks of the bone, then roughly 500 grams pork bones

2 carrots – peeled and sliced

1 onion – peeled and sliced

1 clove garlic – cut in half

1 bayleaf

Fat for frying

For the stew –

7 pigs cheeks

2 tablespoons flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Duck fat/ dripping/ lard /olive oil for frying

350  grams  streaky bacon – plain or smoked – cut into lardons

750 grams Rovellones or other full flavoured mushrooms

butter for frying

6 cloves garlic – finely chopped

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Start by removing the flesh from the bones of the cheeks unless the butcher has already done that for you.

Make the stock. In a saucepan warm the fat, and then add the vegetables and fry until golden brown.

Add the bones and continue frying, turning them over from time to time, until they are browned too.

Add the bay leaf and enough water to cover and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer very slowly for and hour and a half.

When the stock is about half way done, you can start the stew.

Heat some of the fat in a large casserole and add the bacon lardons. Cook over a medium heat turning them over from time to time until they are nicely browned. Remove the lardons to a dish.

Cut the meat into pieces roughly 2 x 2 x 5 centimeters.

Put the flour into a shallow dish and season with salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Toss the meat pieces in the flour.

Turn the heat up under the casserole, add more fat and then some of the meat pieces. The meat wants to be in a single layer and not too closely packed so that it can brown. Once on side of the meat is brown and sealed turn the pieces over to another side.

Once all that batch of pieces are brown, remove them to the dish with the bacon. Add more fat and continue browning the other batch of meat. You will need a decent amount of fat so the meat doesn’t stick and browns well, don’t worry about this we will deal with the surplus later.

Once all the meat is browned, return all to the casserole and add enough stock to just cover the meat. Gently bring to a simmer and then turn the heat down to a very low simmer. Leave to cook for an hour.

Meanwhile prepare the mushrooms. I used Rovellones which are from the same family as Ceps, but any good flavoured mushrooms can be substituted.

Wash the mushrooms if necessary and dry them with a tea towel or paper towels.

Heat the butter in a shallow pan and add the mushrooms together with the chopped garlic. Fry over a brisk heat for about 10 to 15 minutes until the mushrooms are almost cooked.

Add the mushrooms to the casserole and gently stir to mix them in.

Continue simmering the stew slowly for a further 15 minutes.

Turn off the heat. The meat will continue cooking as it slowly cools.

Once cool put into the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Most of the fat in the stew will have come to the surface and solidified, and so you can easily lift it off to make the stew less greasy. It is for this reason that I specify to fry with a fat that will set rather than olive oil. But do keep the tasty  fat to use later in another dish. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Reheat the casserole slowly and serve.

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